Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Monday, June 07, 2010

The meaning of life, part three

Follow your gut even when you don't know where it's taking you.

Congratulations! You have dug out what you believe to be your essence--your mission. Maybe you haven't discovered all of your potential gifts yet, but you've watched yourself now, paid attention to when you are in the flow and have recognized that your recent peak experiences include, say, rescuing animals and providing respite to creatures. Now you find opportunities to do it (whatever it is) baby step by baby step, oftentimes having no clue of where it's taking you. You volunteer somewhere you can do more respite providing. That experience will either turn you off or on, and you begin to build a knowledge-base and network that will end up sending you to your next adventure. My attorney friend decided at 58 she had always wanted to act and there was no time like the present. She started taking acting classes in the evenings. She was good at it and got accepted to a prestigous acting troupe. Each experience reinforced her love for and desire to learn more about this gift she had for acting, and each opened up a new door.

The behold word on my mission is the perfect petrie dish to examine for how a mission unfolds. I had taken photos beginning in college with an old Argos C-3 box camera of my dads. I remember looking at shots of my daughter thinking how good the camera. What I didn't realize at that time was that the shots were good because the camera was good AND I had an eye. I actually see things others don't see. It happened all my life on hikes and in a crowd and in ordinary events. So my sweetie bought me a digital camera before we went on an international trip in 2006. Because I carried my computer in order to send photos home I had the luxury of seeing my "catch" immediately. I was pleased with a good percentage of shots. And I loved every minute of shooting.

When I arrived home I attended a photo exhibition opening and immediately thought, "Geez, I have photos at least as good as these." I mentioned it to my aunt who serendipitously was trying to upgrade a great room in the local community center to be better maintained and decided creating a gallery was the perfect answer. I framed and hung photos and sold $600 worth. I mentioned this to a salon in a fancy area of town and next thing I know I'm framing photos and hanging them there and selling $1200 worth of photos. I hooked up with a local artist group through by agreeing to put some of my photos on greeting cards. I added words to images to make a deeper meaning. I find I love my artist community, but don't fancy selling my art at a booth at the local Saturday market. Step by step gaining clarity on how I want to work and present my work. Some roads are fruitful, some are not. The best step I took for both writing and photography was setting up blogs. They keep me writing and they allow me to be the artist I want to be gradually putting my work up for others to see, and finding my way as I go. In the meantime I am creating a collection of what I know and the work I've produced. I am practicing what I want to do by doing it, even not knowing how it will turn out.

I keep telling my Creating The Life You Want participants that you first discover the bliss and then you walk down the road pursuing that bliss. Every action you take has an equal reaction that creates more options, or an understanding you are walking down the wrong road. If you can let go of the need for a deadline, you can enjoy the journey and eventually zero in on the target. I'm learning to enjoy the hunt.

L's deliberate path to change

No telling what one thoughtful human being can do when they set their mind to it.

Yesterday I took a brave step--for me. I ate a couple of slices of a red bell pepper dipped in garlic dip. That may not sound like such a brave move, I mean it's not like I'm a taster for the king and any bite might be my last, but for me it comes close. To taste something I've never eaten or have eaten and decided I didn't like--there is a fear I won't like it, won't be able to swallow it, choke on it, and then won't be able to get the taste out of my mouth. The verdict. The pepper wasn't too bad. I had decided I would eat at least one slice. I actually ate 3-- pushing the limit. Now I know that I can eat a red bell pepper, maybe even a green one or a yellow one. This is a step toward having more veggies in my diet. Of course without the garlic dip I don't know if I could, but... one step at a time.

The other addition to my diet is juice (never a big fan); 8 oz of those V8 infusion juices is supposed to equal one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetable. I like the blackberry cranberry and it is pure juice, no sugar or anything else added.

We had dinner at Stanford's last night. They have wonderful hamburgers and fries, fish and chips and steaks. I ordered grilled halibut and garlic mashed potatoes. Another small step to fewer calories and less fat. And I had iced tea to drink instead of a coke or a beer. Good grief - how wholesome.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lazy or exhausted?

Fast Company (June 2, 2010) has a Dan Heath article about change. He believes that some of what appears to be our laziness is really exhaustion. Turns out those asked to exercise restraint by eating radishes instead of chocolate chip cookies in a laboratory test (even when the researchers were out of the room) persisted on an impossible puzzle an average of 8 minutes, while the group that ate cookies instead of radishes (even when researchers were out of the room) persistent on average for 19 minutes.

While one might wonder if the persistence of the cookie eaters might have been caused by a sugar rush (no mention in the study), it's interesting to consider that too much change affects our ability to stick with it. We know this intuitively when our company is making too many changes at once, but I think it's a rare bird that considers their personal change/exhaustion quotient. I'm thinking about W and her choice to stay with her current job amidst multiple changes--only daughter's high school graduation and move away to college, selling her house, considering international travel. I guess she knew in her heart that taking on a new job might add too much additional change and exhaust her. The rest of us overwhelm ourselves and wonder why we struggle.

Good reminder for me as I work on changing careers; make only as much change as I can tolerate on my worst day. When I fail to make the change I'm courting, the next attempt is harder because the failure monkey can howl to my distraction--making every attempt critical to successful change. Better to focus on the vital few and celebrate success than focus on the trivial many and lay myself out, too pooped to change.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


"My shoulder is killing me," I whined to my massage therapist/healer.

"Show me where on the diagram; describe the pain and when you feel it."

"To tell you the truth it's been going on for a while, it's acute today. But I've been feeling crooked for a couple of months. I think I've even had you work my left side the last couple."

He had me sit and started poking around the area of pain. He hit a trigger spot.


"What do you suppose that is?"

"It's got to be my Mom. It just gets harder and harder."

He asked question after question while he countered with his thumbs the tension build-up at a line of spots just under my shoulder blade, each tightness triggering tears and deeper sharing of indelible words, an image of the 7 year old version of myself still resenting old hurt. Through imagining he had me love and support my angry little girl and feel compassion for a mother I see trapped in a coccoon. He revealed to me the old tapes that keep me from playing the mature adult I mean to play. He helped me unstick my painful shoulder, AND my interactions with my mother. I wondered if the stuckness had anything to do with a dry spell in my writing.
"Stuck"for me is when I stop making progress in an area I am trying to change. Being stuck in one area of our lives can set us up to be stuck in other areas. Plus, most of the things that make us stuck are emotionally charged, often unresolved things from the past. Our unconcious is so busy working to fortify the effects of the past it hardly has time to work on the present. If we are aware, we can even pinpoint its physical sign, hyperventilating, anxiety, sadness, etc. If we are smart, we'll get some help to break up the jam. That's when I first went to see Tom--my stuckness expert and psychologist.

It seems when I experience one lesson, it's usually followed close by a couple more of the same theme. As a matter of fact, one of our friends expressed her stuckness via email too recently to be coincidence. She had been trying to work on some long-term health issues. In the course of the written exchange, she mentioned that she hadn't slept for years. She was working on it. I applauded her insight. I supported her delaying more big life changes until she gets unstuck from her sleeplessness. It's difficult to find clarity about just about everything when you're Z-deprived.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend and a reunion of women working on creating the lives they want. Z is a lifelong learner in her 40s, very successful in her career. Her career is not her passion. She's searching for that. Her story includes a long-standing resentment toward her family, struggle to let go of hard feelings and an unexplainable angst. D works hard on finding her mission (she's zeroing in on her talents and passions), but struggles to breathe most of the time due to a tightness in her chest and tears just beind her eyes. I wondered out loud if it was possible they needed to unstick themselves before their next big burst of progress. I'm confident each will find a way to unlock their stuckness . . . in their own time.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.